The father of an RNLI lifesaver who died from cancer aged 25 has spoken of his astonishment after the online charity fundraiser he set up in his memory passed £30,000.
Ryan Davidson, who lived in Thurso and volunteered in Scrabster, was planning to marry his partner Nicola McTurk next year, and wanted guests to make donations to the lifeboat station in place of any presents.
After his death last month, his father Kevin Davidson set up the fundraising page for Thurso RNLI and charity Fishermen’s Mission who supported Nicola and her children Lucy, 8, and Dylan, 4, while Ryan battled Burkitt lymphoma.
He said: “On his wedding day, instead of getting presents he was just wanting money for this fund, and his fund was the Thurso lifeboat station.
“That was the charity he picked, he didn’t want any presents for it.
“This is why the Go Fund Me page was set up, for that and Fisherman’s Mission, because when he passed they were very good to his partner as well.”
Kevin said he had initially hoped to raise around £10,000, and had found the level of support from the Highland community “overwhelming”.
He added: “I never in a million years expected anywhere near that sort of figure, and neither did any of us.”
Destined to save lives
Ryan had joined the RNLI at the age of 20, something he was “probably destined” to do, according to his father.
He was following his brother Lewis and Kevin himself, who have 12 and 31 years’ volunteering experience respectively, as well as two of Kevin’s uncles.
All three generations were based at the same station in Thurso.
Kevin said: “Myself, Ryan and his brother have been on the boat all together, on some shouts. Some turn out not so good, and other shouts, you come out and it’s been a good ending.
“Even at his young age, his five years’ service with the RNLI, he’d crammed quite a lot into it.”
Ron Gunn, the press officer for the lifeboat station, said: “Ryan was a very popular member of Thurso RNLI crew and was also very well known and liked in the wider community.
“This was demonstrated by the huge number of folk that came out to show their respect and in the very generous amount that has been donated to the fund set up in his memory.
“Ryan will be sadly missed.”
Living his dream
A few years after joining the lifeboat, Ryan met another group of people who would become as close as family to him.
After spending several years as a joiner, Kevin said he “threw his joiner’s hammer in the Pentland Firth” and stepped aboard the fishing vessel the Boy Andrew, owned by the son of his grandfather’s good friend.
Kevin added: “He enjoyed his life on the Boy Andrew quite immensely.
“When he got his Boy Andrew jacket, that was more or less saying he got his contract, it was like the Golden Fleece he was given.
“He was that excited, my partner and I were in America at the time, and he actually phoned us in America and told us about his jacket.
“He’d gone where he wanted to go, and I think that was him forever, in his eyes.
“The Boy Andrew goes out maybe 10 days to two weeks at a time, so the crew were like a close, close family to him as well.
“It was certainly very emotional on the funeral day, because they were just like family to him as well.”
A phenomenal response
On the day of Ryan’s funeral, hundreds of Scrabster and Thurso residents – including his RNLI colleagues and crewmates from the Boy Andrew – lined the streets to pay tribute, and the lifeboat was sent off its moorings in his memory.
To Kevin, the stunning amount raised on the Go Fund Me page is an extension of the generosity shown to him, his partner Karen and the rest of Ryan’s family by the local community on that day.
He said: “Ryan was so well-known, through football, through joinery, through fishing and the lifeboat, the emergency services and that.
“For a small community to raise that amount of money is quite flabbergasting, quite phenomenal. Very moving and touching, and kind.
“The generosity has been unbelievable, unbelievable.”